NYC Taxis - The Unspoken Death of an Industry - Zupnick Associates

( By Elton Mwangi)

Did you know that the licensed and almost ubiquitous yellow cabs in NYC are more than 13,000?

And now, the NYC Taxis in the coronavirus 2020 pandemic are being sidelined in thousands. But while COVID-19 might be the straw that killed the camel’s back, taxi issues have been present long before coronavirus.

NYC Taxi challenges in the past

Probably one of the biggest challenges that the yellow cab has had to face in the past is the inception of competitor apps like Lyft and Uber. More on this later.

For several years now, the entrepreneurial workers in the taxi business have been in a battle for survival due to some reasons. One, the state of New York has continuously increased the taxes in the industry. Two, taxi licenses have increasingly become unaffordable for many drivers: this has led to the suicide of eight NYC drivers.

Lastly, the driver medallions are devalued from an initial worth of 1 million to a current 250,000 dollars. Then came the inception of Lyft and Uber, creating cut-throat competition. Because more and more people prefer the ease of ordering a cab through mobile apps, vis-à-vis the challenge of hailing a yellow cab, taxicab drivers saw a decline in business.

But none of these challenges has been as detrimental as the coronavirus crisis.

Effects of COVID-19 on the yellow cab

The NYC Taxis in coronavirus 2020 are facing a calamity that is worse than 9/11. Many fear that the pandemic might be the final blow for taxi drivers. This is why!

An Industry filled with risk

Taxi drivers interact with different types of people every day. Their line of work places them at double risk for getting infected with the virus. That is why when the virus first threatened the city residents, some drivers opted out of locations such as airports that proved to be high-risk infection regions.

And with good reason. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA) reported that drivers were some of the first city residents to suffer from the pandemic impact. Twenty-eight drivers were among the first individuals that died in the state from the virus

Now, with the viral infections in full effect, most active yellow cab drivers find themselves attending to sick patients that are not sick enough for the ambulance. With the decreased availability of gear and sanitizers, such drivers continue to put their lives at risk of infection.

Risk aside, the preventative measures taken in the state have driven the business to imminent ruin.

Effects of the NYC shut down.

By the first weekend of the statewide quarantine measures, taxi ridership had gone down a whopping 91 percent. With health officials advising against social monogamy and following the shutdown of many businesses, the NYC Taxis in coronavirus 2020 is placing most drivers in survival mode.

Typically, a driver will stay for at least two hours before they get a passenger. Besides, driving around the city looking for passengers is a waste of fuel. To make matters worse, most residents now prefer to take walks when they can to reduce the risk of infection. 

A driver earning 60 dollars a day is a lucky one in this current pandemic. With no tourists to boost income, taxi drivers are effectively at a loss. 

Life or death decision

For most drivers, they are faced with two choices: protection of their health or payment of bills. Most drivers are finding it challenging to decide on either option. If and when one chooses to protect their health and that of their family, they face the possibility of starvation and financial ruin.

On the other hand, choosing to go to work every day is a risk, as mentioned earlier. Additionally, there seems to be very little to no relief provided by the state’s government officials. This means that most yellow cab drivers are left feeling hopeless. 

So what can be done?

The NYTWA is right to presume that the NYC Taxis in coronavirus 2020 is in serious trouble if no immediate relief is provided. In their proposed bailout plan, these are some of the things that can be done:

  • Creation of an assistance package for taxi drivers

  • Creation of unemployment benefits and cash subsidies 

  • Zero-interest loans presented to drivers

  • A waiver on the operational fees for cab companies

  • A refund on the most recent payments

  • Initiation of a lend-lease program to allow yellow cabs to offer services that help combat the viral spread


The yellow cab is an NYC artifact, a part of cultural history. But, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to take a toll on the industry. With many drivers facing financial loss and risk of infection, it is becoming necessary to initiate bailout programs for the industry. Now that proposals are on the table, hope remains that many will fall into fruition.

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